Monday, June 18, 2012

A Loveburst: The Dandy Warhols

Eighteen years ago, a magical band named The Dandy Warhols was born. A bastard lovechild of David Bowie and the Rolling Stones, the Dandys found the perfect blend of atmospheric pop and raunchy rock and roll. They played hard, did some drugs, toured the globe, and most importantly, had fun. Cut to now, add an abundance of technical skill, a world of experience, and years of personal growth, and you have one of the most entertaining bands to listen to and watch. For all the effort they seem to put into their music, the aura of cool that glows off of them seems so damn effortless.

My introduction to the Dandys is the same as most general fans, the pop rock track 'Bohemian Like You', first heard in high school. I was more into the hard rock scene back then, so the song didn't really catch on. Skip ahead to my college days, first girlfriend (that story is a whole other blog post), introduced me to The albums Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia and Welcome to the Monkey House. Again, I respected their style and found the music catchy, but didn't fall in band-love. Time machine style, I should hop back and smack that guy upside the head, I could've had two more years of Dandy love if I had just accepted them back then. I did start a collection of their music on my itunes, and made myself a mix album of some notable tracks, but I wouldn't have put them anywhere near my top 20. I blame this on taking music way too seriously back in those days.

Like many of my nerdy hobbies and artistic love affairs, it was ChinaCat Sunflower who inspired me to give The Dandys yet another try, with a new set of music appreciating ears. It all started with a text conversation between her friend and I, where I casually mentioned The Dandys among other bands that I was into. Her reply was, 'you know who else likes the Dandys??' And a relationship was born. With a girl and with a band. We listened to them together and I heard their songs all over again, but for the first time. I attribute my newfound love for them to many things, such as the range in their sound and a damn funky rhythm, but it really came down to a growth in music knowledge and a hunger for music that had more fun than the high-school style hard rock bands that were suffocating my music taste.

Four years later, and The Dandy Warhols have a permanent spot on my ipod, are consistently played in my daily rotation, and have a personal appointment with me anytime they come to town for a concert. Last Friday night was my fourth time experiencing a Dandys show. The first time, also at the Commodore Ballroom, is quite a blur. Total drunkfest. As laid back and hip as some of their songs can be, those four pop rockers can throw a party. The second time, at the now dead Richards on Richards, is also a blur, due to the influence of some party drugs. The third time, once again at the Commodore, was with a whole group of friends, and easily one of the best nights out I've ever had. While my emphasis here may not be the band themselves, they provided the soundtrack and the atmosphere for some extremely unforgettable nights, if only I could remember.

The difference between the most recent Dandys showing and the previous three is that this time, I was watching the band much more closely. Sure, I had fun with my friends, and watching the crowd, but this was less about the party and more about appreciating a band that I've listened to every day for the last four years. There's Zia, queen of the sound machine, dancing and partying as hard as anyone in the crowd, but also keeping such a close eye on her bandmates to ensure the show is the best they can make it. Then there's Fathead, drummer Brett DeBoer, who is a human drum machine. Pop a quarter in him every five minutes and he'll perfectly play any beat you ask for. Over on the far right, you can barely see him, but he's there, guitarist Pete Holmstrom. He's the ghost of the band, simply a top hat floating around in the smoke. He's the least obvious of the band members, but anyone listening would soon notice if he stopped playing. Finally, there's frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor. He's sung these songs so many times that it's like listening to an old friend tell a story that he knows from his soul, but it sounds brand new every listen. Put those four together and it's tough to find a band that's more confident, more talented, and more comfortable on stage.

The setlist is the fifth band member, setting the pace and keeping everyone, no matter what Dandys sound they prefer, involved in the show. Old favourites like 'The Last High', 'We Used to Be Friends', 'Boys Better', 'Not If You Were the Last Junkie of Earth', and of course, 'Bohemian Like You' were enough to keep any fan satisfied. Throw in newer tracks like 'You Come in Burned', 'Holding Me Up', and 'And Then I Dreamt of Yes', and you see that the band isn't losing their touch, not even close. Wrap it all up with brand new songs 'Sad Vacation' and 'The Autumn Carnival', you can see a very bright future for the Dandys. Plus the special moments, like a solo singalong of 'Every Day Should Be a Holiday' with Courtney himself, the fact they finally played 'Godless' for me, and Zia's beautiful lullaby to end the night. What you have a more than just a party at a rock show, you have a musical memory. Half the crowd absolutely loved it, while the other half had no idea what the hell they were witnessing. (Credit to Guy Dudeman for that observation).

If what you just read comes off as total masturbation, as the obsessive ramblings of a fanboy, as two big lips sucking on the ass of the Dandys, then I've conveyed exactly what I set out to do. My love affair with the Dandys started off slow, as acquaintances, then friends, then casual sex, and now I'm proud to call them a lifelong partner. While I wasn't too impressed with their newest effort This Machine, that still won't stop me from checking out their next album and their next show. One day, I promise, I'll write a negative review of something, but it sure won't be today. If you love the Dandys, this will all make sense. If you don't, start with Thirteen Tales and you won't regret it. If you're relaxing, driving, partying, fucking, reflecting, reading, stoned, sleepy, bored, depressed, or just plain happy, The Dandy Warhols have the perfect song for you. Don't dig them, and they probably won't even notice.  Dig them, and they'll reward you kindly for years to come.

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